Abstract away the blockchains behind decentralized apps — Drift Labs

Lead engineer Heaney says it’s all about making it as easy as possible to get to Drift


Black Salmon/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


While crypto enthusiasts are busily debating which blockchain architecture is better, the average end user of future decentralized applications probably won’t care what’s operating under the hood — nor should they, says Drift Labs co-founder Cindy Leow.

Arguments over whether monolithic, modular or appchain architectures are the best blockchain scaling strategies will fade into obscurity if Leow has her way. 

On the Lightspeed podcast (Spotify/Apple), Leow explains to Blockworks that Drift Labs’ goal with the company’s perpetual swaps protocol is to “attract an audience that doesn’t need to know about whatever underlying blockchain it’s on.”

The Drift protocol “enables on-chain perpetual and spot trading with leverage,” according to the company website. While it operates exclusively on Solana, Leow explains that the company’s mission is to become a “neutral player” in the crypto space.

Simple onboarding mechanisms like email logins, with a “magic link” that creates a wallet for the user in the backend will make things accessible for users who don’t spend their days learning about validators, anti-spam mechanisms or the latest network consensus solutions.

“Our philosophy with the branding and with the product is that eventually, you really don’t need to be a hardcore Solana user to use and love the app,” Leow says.

Leow notes that many of Drift protocol’s users are passionately dedicated to Solana’s ecosystem. “We love being part of the narrative,” she says, “but we want to get to the stage for the product that anyone clicking in from a TikTok ad for Drift should be able to use it, without knowing what Solana is.”

Leow says that to achieve true scalability, additional layers of abstraction will need to be added over the underlying blockchain technology. 

Too much at one time

Drift protocol lead engineer Crisp Heaney agrees. “Over time, there should be more abstractions and it should be easier to interact with things without knowing the blockchain you’re on,” he says.

A common strategic misstep, Heaney says, is believing in the concept of abstraction but instead trying to do “too much at one time” by building on multiple chains. Competitors who are “super-focused,” building on a single chain are likely to draw more consumer demand, Heaney says. And if they’re better at delivering a good product, he says, “you’ve just lost everywhere.”

“Even though, in theory, you should keep abstracting, in practice, you need to be super-focused on where you spend your time,” says Heaney.

Heaney says he is a “big proponent” of going “all-in” on one place, “and making that place great — versus trying to hedge our bets and have Drift deploy on multiple chains.”

“It’s just really tough to do that and not lose to a more focused team,” Heaney says.

Leow says the company is working on putting themselves “front and center” for broader distribution opportunities. She mentions Solana’s Backpack wallet, where the company built a xNFT leaderboard feature that drew people into using Drift. 

“We found that that was a funnel for a lot of more NFT-focused traders to actually come in and start using it via Backpack,” she says. “Our app has so many different functions, you need to build pockets of access in multiple different places.”

Heaney adds: “We’re just trying to make it as easy as possible to get to Drift.”

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